On Thursday, Wizards of the Coast published the release notes for Masters 25 in every language. Or, rather, they tried to. In at least one of those languages, they accidentally published the release notes for the upcoming Dominaria expansion instead. The internet being what it is, once this information was discovered, it spread rapidly. Wizards, recognizing their error, published the Dominaria release notes in all of their languages that evening, sparing everyone from having to deal with Google Translate's best attempt at Simplified Chinese Magic cards.
The result is that we now know every major theme and mechanic from this upcoming expansion, along with the text of over 140 of the cards. It appears Dominaria is taking a heavily nostalgic approach, reminiscent of Time Spiral-though without the ungodly plethora of mechanics. It also has a strong legends-matter theme to it, which draws immediate parallels to both the Kamigawa block and the Legends expansion. So far, the execution already looks better than both. Walk with us as we explore the lore behind all of the new cards, with contributions from void_nothing, Jay13x, and sev8.
The first legends-matter mechanic Dominaria introduces is legendary sorceries. These sorceries represent major events from the history of Magic's past. To fuel their power, they require that you control either a legendary creature or a planeswalker in order to cast them.
Darigaaz, the Igniter by Mark Zug
Urza's Ruinous Blast represents Urza wielding the Golgothian Sylex with his freshly unlocked magic to devastate the entire plane, ending the Brothers' War, sealing Dominaria into the Shard of the Twelve Worlds, starting the Ice Age and preventing Phyrexia from invading Dominaria for thousands of years.
Karn's Temporal Sundering represents Karn's ability to travel through time. He was built by Urza and Barrin after they realized that only silver could survive traveling through a temporal portal, a realization portrayed on Stroke of Genius. Karn has since traveled through time several times, including during The Mending, where he traveled back to the Phyrexian Invasion to close a time rift before it could expand. This is likely the event represented on Karn's Temporal Sundering. It is also possible that this is a depiction of the event previously seen on Sunder, given the name correlation, when a time machine Karn was using exploded.
Jaya's Immolating Inferno is a key spell of Jaya Ballard, Task Mage. While there doesn't appear to be a direct link to the story as of yet, Jaya has shown up in the flavor text of many, many burn spells, including Inferno and Incinerate, and this is precisely the kind of magic she utilizes.
Kamahl's Druidic Vow represents Kamahl, Pit Fighter forswearing his violent life and dedicating himself to a path of harmony with nature, as seen on Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, surrendering the Mirari in the process.
Also present in this set are new Saga enchantments. While these are not themselves legendary, they represent important stories in Dominaria's history. Each Saga enters the battlefield with a lore counter and gains an additional lore counter each turn. Every time it gains a lore counter, it triggers one of its "chapter" abilities, and after the third counter, it's sacrificed. These cards are clearly inspired by the original Planeswalker design that was tested back in Future Sight, as well as the structure mechanic that was tested and ultimately cut from Ravnica.
Thran Tome by Mark Zug
Fall of the Thran represents one of the earliest chronicled periods in Magic's history. Nearly five thousand years before the Brothers' War, the Thran were a powerful and technologically advanced empire. After the Thran healer Yawgmoth's initial rise to power as ruler of Phyrexia, he seized control of the Thran capitol and slaughtered the population for the raw materials for his freshly-minted Phyrexian army. Thus began the Thran Civil War and the eventual downfall of the empire and first sealing of the planar portal to Phyrexia.
The Antiquities War, also known as The Brothers' War, is one of the most famous events in Magic's history. It's chronicled in the Antiquities expansion as well as parts of the Urza's Saga block. Nearly five thousand years after the fall of the Thran, the nation of Argive began a comprehensive archaeological dig and restoration of Thran technology, leading to the technological milieu Urza and Mishra were born into. After discovering the Mightstone and Weakstone, and Mishra being exposed to the Phyrexian-demon Gix's corrupting influence, the two brothers began a massive war fueled by an artifice arms race. When Urza finally came into his Planeswalker-level powers and realized Phyrexia's involvement, he ended the war with the Sylex blast, as seen above.
This, of course, lead to The Time of Ice, also known as the Ice Age. During this time, Dominaria and eleven other planes were sealed off from the greater multiverse in something known as The Shard. Dominaria itself was subject to world-sweeping climate change that covered most of the world in ice and snow.
The Ice Age ended when the Planeswalker Freyalise utilized the energy of Shandalar, which was the only plane capable of moving in and out of The Shard, to cast the World Spell. This broke The Shard, releasing the plane from the Ice Age, an act depicted on Song of Freyalise.
After the ending of the Ice Age, Torsten Von Ursus founded the nation of Benalia out of the ruins of the Sheoltun Empire. The empire of Benalia, after his death, would survive for thousands of years, playing a pivotal role in both the Invasion and Time Spiral storylines. History of Benalia represents the military conquest of the shattered nation and its forging into an enduring ideal.
Phyrexian Scriptures is emblematic of Phyrexia's all-consuming, all-corrupting influence. It's not clear yet what exact sequence of events the card refers to-it could be Yawgmoth's initial rise to power during the Thran era, the corruption of Mishra during the Brothers' War, or the creation of Rath and its overlay onto Dominaria for the Phyrexian Invasion. Regardless, it does an excellent job of capturing Phyrexia's modus operandi-convert flesh to metal, eliminate the remaining flesh, and then pave over whatever remains.
Cover of The Duelist #28 by Terese Nielsen
Triumph of Gerrard could represent one of several moments from Gerrard Capashen's storyline, starting in the Weatherlight set and continuing through the end of Apocalypse, but it's likely it represents his final victory over Yawgmoth at the culmination of the Phyrexian Invasion.
After Yawgmoth's defeat, Karn, Silver Golem ascended to Planeswalker status, absorbing a spark from Urza's two powerstones. He left a probe on Dominaria as he exercised his newfound power to explore the Multiverse. The probe, which came to be known as the Mirari, began leaking potent energy. The mortals of the Otarian empire quickly seized on the Mirari as a powerful source of energy, resulting in lots of infighting over who would keep control of it. This plot unfolded in the Odyssey block and is depicted here on The Mirari Conjecture.
Chainer, Dementia Master eventually become the owner of the Mirari and used it to take revenge on those who had wronged him. He created powerful monstrosities from the orb's power, including Laquatus's Champion, Burke. This series of events, representing the set Torment, are depicted on the Saga Chainer's Torment.
The last few Sagas revealed thus far are a little less clear on what they depict, but we can still make some reasonable inferences. The Eldest Reborn likely refers to Nicol Bolas's resurrection during Time Spiral. The First Eruption may cover the birth of Shiv, a volcanic region of Dominaria heavily mined for powerstones. The Flame of Keld references the nation of Keld, which features prominently in much of the Urza's Saga block, Prophecy and Invasion block storylines.
Dominaria introduces another mechanic that ties Sagas in with legends. "Historic" as a descriptor refers to all artifacts, legendary spells, and Saga enchantments. This descriptor can then be used to modify spells, as on Jhoira's Familiar; trigger off of spells, as on Mishra's Self-Replicator; describe permanents, as on Curator's Ward or Sentinel of the Pearl Trident; or describe cards in other zones, as on Urza's Tome. Historic provides a great outlet for making legendary cards matter while not being overly narrow due to the inclusion of a widespread card type (artifacts) and the Sagas to boot.
There's also Mox Amber, a new mox that requires you have a (colored) legendary creature or planeswalker to use.
The Legends and Planeswalkers
Dominaria has promised that legends-matter will be done better than Champions of Kamigawa by guaranteeing a slot in every booster pack that will contain a legendary creature. To fulfill this, there's a huge slew of these creatures already revealed. Some of these are well-known, returning characters. Others reference past characters, organizations, and events. Still others are complete unknowns.
While over 60 years have passed since The Mending, an act which made all current planeswalkers lose their godlike powers, including immortality, there are a lot of characters that have survived this time through various methods. All three of the planeswalkers in the set are returning characters.
Vindicate by Brian Snõddy
Karn, Scion of Urza is a silver golem, originally created by Urza to facilitate his time travel experiments and later to serve as the vessel for the Legacy Weapon. At the climax of Apocalypse, Urza and Gerrard channel a huge white-mana blast from the Null Moon through Karn and the compiled Legacy to destroy Yawgmoth, an act portrayed on Vindicate. This process kills both Gerrard and Urza, but Karn survives and ascends as a Planeswalker. After the events of Scourge, Karn took the Mirari to Argentum, an artifical world which would later become Mirrodin. Unbeknownst to him, he also seeded some Phyrexian oil in the process, setting the stage for the eventual rise of New Phyrexia. During Time Spiral, he traveled back in time to when Barrin, Master Wizard Obliterated Tolaria, closing that temporal rift before it could grow and become too large to manage. When he felt a corrupting influence taking hold of him, he planeswalked away, winding up in Mirrodin's Core, where he became hailed as the new Father of the Machines by the growing Phyrexian presence. The oil eventually corrupted him completely, consuming his spark and his heart. All seemed lost until Venser, the Sojourner sacrificed his own life to purify Karn and grant him his spark. This was the last we'd seen of Karn until he resurfaced on Dominaria. The card itself seems exceptionally powerful, costing only four mana and having multiple, immediately-usable ways to generate card advantage. This makes it a good fit for Legacy's fast-mana decks like Dragon Stompy or Eldrazi Aggro, which run several lands that can produce multiple colorless mana and often sacrifice card advantage to ramp out threats using cards like Chrome Mox or Simian Spirit Guide. Karn has shown up previously as Karn, Silver Golem and Karn Liberated.
Jaya Ballard by Yongjae Choi
Jaya Ballard, the Task Mage, was a key player during the Ice Age block. During Planar Chaos, Jodah believed that Jaya had perished. Jaya had, at one point, inspired the monastery at Keral Keep on Regatha, where Chandra Nalaar had trained after her spark awakened. Jaya is one of the few surviving characters who does not have any form of immortality or eternal youth, and as such, she appears as an elderly woman. Jaya has shown up previously as Jaya Ballard, Task Mage.
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria was a pivotal character in the Weatherlight saga, highly versed in temporal magic and the art of phasing. At the brink of the Phyrexian Invasion, he phased out a large chunk of Dominaria, including Shiv and Zhalfir, sparing their inhabitants from the coming war. During Time Spiral, he returned to help close the time rifts and to phase Shiv (successfully) and Zhalfir (unsuccessfully back in, but in doing so, lost his spark. It is currently unknown how Teferi regained his spark in the interim or whether and how he has managed to remain youthful-possibly through the use of temporal or phasing magic. Teferi has shown up previously as Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir and Teferi, Temporal Archmage.
As far as legendary creatures go, there are several returning as well:
Jhoira, Weatherlight Captain was a student of the Tolarian Academy alongside Teferi. She was the first captain of the Weatherlight and appears to have resumed that role. She was partly responsible for the temporal disaster at the original Academy, which left it in ruins but enabled her to gain a nigh-eternal lifespan by drinking slow-time water. She aided in closing the time rifts during Time Spiral and has shown up previously as Jhoira of the Ghitu. Jhoira is also notable here in that she is the first blue/red legendary creature to care about artifacts, having a historic trigger. This is something Commander players have been asking for for a long time.
Jodah, Archmage Eternal was a key player during The Dark and the Ice Age block. He was one of the primary contributors to Freyalise's World Spell that broke The Shard and ended the Ice Age. He was also present during the Phyrexian Invasion and helped restore Urza's sanity during that time. Jodah helped to close the time rifts during Planar Chaos. Jodah hid in the Fountain of Youth, whose waters granted him nigh-eternal life. Jodah has never appeared on a single card before.
Squee, Goblin Nabob by Greg Staples
Squee, the Immortal is a goblin who was part of the original Weatherlight crew. When he was captured by the Phyrexians, they did not perceive him as a threat and granted him the ability to come back from the dead so that they could kill him indefinitely. However, this enabled him to accidentally kill Ertai, the Corrupted and escape. His immortality apparently extends to today, which has allowed him to survive the hundreds of years between the end of the Phyrexian Invasion and today. He has previously appeared on Squee, Goblin Nabob.
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar is the Maro-Sorcerer of Yavimaya. Multani is one of Gaea's greatest servants and the very soul of his land. He was a key fighter on the Dominarian side during the Phyrexian Invasion. His counterpart in Llanowar was Molimo. He previously appeared on the card Multani, Maro-Sorcerer, and as an elemental avatar, he is eternal.
Darigaaz Reincarnated first appeared as Darigaaz, the Igniter (in full Rhammigdarigaaz), one of the five Primeval dragons who would ascend to godhood. He was the demigod dragon of conception whose mother Gherridarigaaz was a friend to Urza. However, Darigaaz had a conscience and refused to allow the other four Primevals to wreak havoc on Dominaria after their full godhood was achieved and killed himself to break the spell. However, being part-god, he could not fully die and thus has reincarnated.
Grand Warlord Radha first appeared as Radha, Heir to Keld and is a half-elf Keldon war leader of the Time Spiral era who helped in the fixing of the rift crisis. A latent Planeswalker, her spark was forever extinguished as part of closing the rifts. She remained a powerful figure and eventually rose to lead the rebuilt Keld, a nation now also consisting of elf refugees. As an elf, she has a longer lifespan than humans.
Legends with Ties to the Past
Many of the new legends have references to past characters, organizations, or events.
Argivian Restoration by Roger Raupp
Baird, Steward of Argive: Argive was a highly notable city-state around the Brothers' War era. Urza and Mishra were both born here. Urza's birth is 0 AR, which stands for Argivian Reckoning, so the whole calendar is named after here. Argivian Archaeologists were responsible for rediscovering a lot of Thran tech.
Evra, Halcyon Witness: Halcyon was the capital of the Thran. It was a wondrous marvel-a floating city with the first mana rig aboard above the Caves of the Damned (later the Caves of Koilos). Halcyon was destroyed in horrible fashion at the end of the war with the Phyrexians. The Null Sphere (later Glimmer Moon and Null Moon) was sabotaged, removing its protection from the city and the citizens were all gassed to death or fled to Phyrexia only to be compleated. "Halcyon Witness" implies that Evra was witness to this catastrophe.
Kwende, Pride of Femeref: Femeref was one of the major states of Jamuraa during the Mirage Wars. It split from Zhalfir over a religious dispute: the orthodox Femeref hated and distrusted the mages of the Shadow Guild operating in Zhalfir. As a result, Femeref is home to many fanatical and disciplined Knights, called in Jamuraa askari.
Lyra Dawnbringer: Reya Dawnbringer was one of Serra's highest ranking angels and opposed Radiant's radicalism. Under Reya, many Serra Angels decided to help Urza fight the Phyrexians to save Dominarian souls. Since angels do not reproduce, Lyra is not so much a descendant of Reya as perhaps the latest holder of her office and title.
Teshar, Ancestor's Apostle: The Ancestor was the deity of the monotheistic Order of Otaria during the events of the Odyssey and Onslaught blocks. The Ancestor was thought of in somewhat abstract terms but she was a creator figure. Many aven were her champions on Dominaria; Teshar is likely the latest in this long line.
Naru Meha, Master Wizard: A double homage, Naru Meha has inherited Barrin's title as the master of the Academy as well as being a descendant of Kolo Meha, a famous fire mage of Madara and friend and ally of Tetsuo Umezawa in his fight against Bolas.
Toshiro Umezawa by Greg Staples
Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive: The Umezawa clan is highly notable and Tetsuko seems to be the latest descendant. Toshiro Umezawa was a great ronin of Kamigawa who played a pivotal part in the Kami War, and was "repaid" by his sometime-master, the Myojin of Night's Reach, by whisking him away to Madara and blinding him. He sired the Umezawa family, and his descendent, Tetsuo Umezawa, went on to defeat Nicol Bolas on Madara.
Demonlord Belzenlok: Liliana's fourth and final soul creditor, Belzenlok is also master of the Cabal in the current era after that organization's ruin during the events of Onslaught block.
Kazarov, Sengir Pureblood: The Sengir family needs little explanation, being the most famous vampire bloodline in the Multiverse. Baron Sengir was a powerful vampire that traveled the Multiverse with many Planeswalkers before being stranded on the plane of Ulgrotha. Despite this fate, he spread his bloodline to many worlds, including Dominaria.
Whisper, Blood Liturgist: Little is known about Whisper, but we can infer that they are a member of the Cabal. The Cabal grants each of its members a descriptive nickname like Braids, Cabal Minion; Chainer, Dementia Master; or The First, the Cabal Patriarch. These names seek to protect the Cabal members' true names, which can be used against them.
Verix Bladewing: The latest Bladewing dragons are Verix and Karox. The earliest known forefather was Rorix Bladewing, and they had a later ancestor in Tarox Bladewing. This is a powerful Shivan dragon dynasty known for infighting to the point of siblings eating one another.
Arvad the Cursed: We know that Arvad is part of the new Weatherlight crew. The fact that he is a vampire and his title is "the Cursed" strongly implies that he has some ties to Crovax the Cursed, a member of the original Weatherlight crew. Crovax unleashed a blood-curse upon his family after destroying an artifact that bound Selenia, Dark Angel to protect his family, in the hopes of winning her affection.
Planeswalker's Fury by Christopher Moeller
Aryel, Knight of Windgrace: Windgrace was the name of a pantherfolk noble family of Urborg. The one known Lord Windgrace was a Planeswalker and one of the Nine Titans. Windgrace may also have been the name of Crovax's family, indicating vassalage or adoption by the former family.
Rona, Disciple of Gix: Gix was a Praetor of Phyrexia who began life as a renegade Thran. Gix was Glacian's killer, Yawgmoth's right hand, and was killed after being hurled into a portal by the rebellious sleeper agent Xantcha.
Shanna, Sisay's Legacy: Captain Sisay was another of the most important figures of the Weatherlight Saga, another end result of Urza's Bloodline Project, and genetically destined to pilot her family heirloom skyship, the Weatherlight.
Slimefoot, the Stowaway: Slimefoot is a thallid, a member of a sapient fungus race that first sprung up in Havenwood during the Fallen Empires era. He appears to have stowed away on the Weatherlight and is likely responsible for the slime that Jace finds himself standing in when he planeswalks aboard.
Tiana, Ship's Caretaker: All that we know about Tiana is that she is an angel and a member of the new crew of the Weatherlight.
Brand New Legends
Torgaar, Famine Incarnate: Perhaps the deity to the Cabal after the death of the numena Kuberr?
Valduk, Keeper of the Flame: Keeper of the Flame was a position of some sort on Rath during the Evincarate, prior to the Overlay. Given that Rath is now part of Dominaria, maybe Valduk is a descendant of that Rathi tradition. Otherwise, they are a complete mystery.
Grunn, the Lonely King: Sapient gorillas were prevalent in Terisiare during the Ice Age, and some still existed during the Flood Age. It seems as though Grunn is a member of this race, definitely a leader of theirs, but possibly the last remaining one.
Firesong and Sunspeaker: Many minotaur clans are known in Dominarian history, especially from the Mirage era, which also features several notable songs, including The Love Song of Night and Day.
Hallar, the Firefletcher: Completely unknown at this point.
Muldrotha, the Gravetide: Another total mystery.
Despite over half the set being spoiled, nearly half the set remains, along with many mysteries. Spoilers for Dominaria start this week, so tune in to the Rumor Mill every day for the latest news!